First let's review history. Last year an old veteran Marine who fought and earned three Purple Hearts on Guadalcanal during World War II told me the weapon that won the war for the United States was the M1 Garand rifle. Though heavier than some battlefield rifles of that age, the M1 fired the potent .30-06 cartridge with devastating knockdown power. In the mid-1950s, the military adopted the rotating-bolt, gas-operated M-14 chambered in 7.62mm NATO, a cartridge better known to most sportsmen as the .308 Winchester, to replace the M1. In 1964 the United States military turned its attention to the .223-caliber M-16, a move some soldiers still argue was a mistake. When the M-16 series rifles took over military service during and after Vietnam many M-14s found a market in competition shooting and specialized civilian uses. Springfield Armory makes them in a variety of configurations under the M1A, M-21 and M-25 designations.
It was in the 1980s that legendary rifleman retired Col. Jeff Cooper, USMC, started his lecturing and writing crusade about the need for an ideal general-purpose "scout rifle." His general definition of the scout rifle concept is a short-action, short-barreled, lightweight rifle with a synthetic stock. The sighting system is to include compact sights that incorporate an integrated aperture sight with forward-mounted optics so both eyes can remain open while shooting. This is to enhance peripheral vision and situational awareness. Cooper also suggests that the rifle be chambered in no less than a .30-caliber round. Springfield Armory's SOCOM II is the latest reincarnated M-14 embodiment of the scout rifle.
The barrel is just over the 16"-minimum required by law for civilian ownership, and it is ported to minimize recoil and limit muzzle jump during rapid fire. Rifling is a six-groove, 1-in-11" right-hand twist. The open sight system consists of an MOA click-adjustable oversized rear military aperture you can tune for windage and elevation, and a front tritium post sight that stands out in low light.
The SOCOM II is capable of mounting a unique cluster rail system that facilitates the mounting of multiple accessories on the rugged synthetic stock, including a forward-mounted, long-relief scope or red-dot sight, a tactical flashlight, laser sights and similar devices to customize the firearm for a specific mission or need.
Shooting the SOCOM II was exhilarating and impressive. The rifle I shot measured just over 37" in length and weighed about 11 pounds. That's a heavy rifle for Cooper's "lightweight" definition, and an impressive heft to a small rifle, but it shot like a dream with no discernable muzzle jump at all. That extra weight, teamed with the ported barrel, also made recoil negligible. A heavy metal plate about 100 yards downrange was the target, and it rang like a gong when I nailed it with each and every shot. I was shooting offhand, as the picture shows, and the SOCOM II that I used was equipped with a nonmagnifying holographic red-dot sight. Detachable 10-round magazines fed ammo.
This isn't a hunting rifle in the sense of utility as a deer or antelope gun, and it doesn't pretend to be one. I did, however, leave the shooting station thinking what a fine ranch rifle the SOCOM II would be with utility comparable to that of the Ruger Mini-14, which one often sees on the gun racks of pickups in the rural West. The .308 ammunition is cheap and abundant, especially from military surplus lots, and the gun's compact size, superbly rugged construction, accuracy and balance would make it an ideal companion on any large ranch or property where one really never knows what varmints or predators one might encounter while making the rounds. SOCOM II is not a cheap gun, however, and you can expect to fork over about $2,000 to own one. In spite of the price tag, I give the SOCOM II a solid recommendation. Visit a Cabela's retail store and ask to see or order a SOCOM II for yourself.